What is Stroke: Symptoms and best treatments
Photo: BrainFacts.com

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds, or when there’s a blockage in the blood supply to the brain. The rupture or blockage prevents blood and oxygen from reaching the brain’s tissues, according to Healthline.

Stroke symptoms

The sooner a person having a stroke gets care, the better their outcome is likely to be. For this reason, it’s helpful to know the signs of a stroke so you can act quickly. Stroke symptoms can include:

- paralysis

- numbness or weakness in the arm, face, and leg, especially on one side of the body

- trouble speaking or understanding speech

- confusion

- slurring speech

- vision problems, such as trouble seeing in one or both eyes with vision blackened or blurred, or double vision

- trouble walking

- loss of balance or coordination

- dizziness

- severe, sudden headache with an unknown cause

What is Stroke: Symptoms and best treatments
Photo: MedicalNewsToday.com

Stroke treatments

Recently, the most common stroke medications include:

- Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): This emergency medication can be provided during a stroke to break up a blood clot causing the stroke. It’s the only medication currently available that can do this, but it must be given within 3 to 4.5 hours after symptoms of a stroke begin.

- Anticoagulants: These drugs reduce your blood’s ability to clot. The most common anticoagulant is warfarin (Jantoven, Coumadin). These drugs can also prevent existing blood clots from growing larger, which is why they may be prescribed to prevent a stroke, or after an ischemic stroke or TIA has occurred.

- Antiplatelet drugs: These medications prevent blood clots by making it more difficult for the blood’s platelets to stick together. The most common antiplatelet drugs include aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix).

- Statins: Statins, which help lower high blood cholesterol levels, are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. These drugs prevent the production of an enzyme that can turn cholesterol into plaque — the thick, sticky substance that can build up on the walls of arteries and cause strokes and heart attacks.

- Blood pressure drugs: High blood pressure can cause pieces of plaque buildup in your arteries to break off. These pieces can block arteries, causing a stroke. As a result, controlling high blood pressure can help prevent a stroke.

Several medications are used to treat strokes. However, in detail, the type your doctor prescribes depends largely on the type of stroke you had: ischemic or hemorrhagic, which is carefully explained in Stanfordhealthcare.org:
Ischemic stroke.

For this type of stroke, treatment focuses on restoring blood flow to the brain.

  • You may get a clot-dissolving medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (TPA). This medicine can improve recovery from a stroke, especially if it's given as soon as possible after the stroke happens. Doctors try to give this medicine within 3 hours after symptoms start. Some people may be helped if they are able to get this medicine within 4½ hours of their first symptoms.
  • You may also get aspirin or another antiplatelet medicine.
  • In some cases, a procedure may be done to restore blood flow. The doctor uses a thin, flexible tube (catheter) and a tiny cage to remove the blood clot that caused the stroke. This procedure is called a thrombectomy.
Hemorrhagic stroke.

For this type of stroke, treatment focuses on controlling bleeding, reducing pressure in the brain, and stabilizing vital signs, especially blood pressure.

  • To stop the bleeding, you may get medicine or a transfusion of parts of blood, such as plasma. These are given through an IV.
  • You will be closely watched for signs of increased pressure on the brain. These signs include restlessness, confusion, trouble following commands, and headache. Other measures will be taken to keep you from straining from excessive coughing, vomiting, or lifting, or straining to pass stool or change position.
  • If the bleeding is from a ruptured brain aneurysm, surgery to repair the aneurysm may be done.
  • In some cases, medicines may be given to control blood pressure, brain swelling, blood sugar levels, fever, and seizures.
  • If a large amount of bleeding has occurred and symptoms are quickly getting worse, you may need surgery. The surgery can remove the blood that has built up inside the brain and lower pressure inside the head.

Stroke rate in the United States

Talking numbers about the rate of stroke in the U.S are added by strokecenter.org as listed below:

- Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. More than 140,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.

- Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks.

- Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.

- Strokes can and do occur at ANY age. Nearly one fourth of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.

- On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.

- Stroke accounted for about one of every 17 deaths in the United States in 2006. Stroke mortality for 2005 was 137,000.

- From 1995–2005, the stroke death rate fell ~30 percent and the actual number of stroke deaths declined ~14 percent.

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